It took a while for North Carolina sports betting legislation to get going in 2023, but the Tar Heel State could still be first to the finish line.
After his HB 347 got its first hearing of the year Tuesday, Rep. Jason Saine told PlayUSA that he expects House passage Wednesday of next week.
North Carolina sports betting took its first step forward by advancing through the House Commerce Committee by a 17-7 vote Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the legislation cleared House Finance and House Judiciary 1. It will stop over in Rules on the way to hitting the House floor next week.
Saine said he expects HB 347 to get a second reading on the House floor next Tuesday, then a third reading and vote on Wednesday.
Then the bill goes to the Senate, which already passed sports betting legislation last year.
Advancing through Commerce Committee
Saine and Democratic co-sponsor Rep. Zach Hawkins introduced the bill to show its bipartisan support.
Hawkins started out by preemptively addressing some of the concerns of his colleagues.
“We know that some believe that gambling is a vice and we shouldn’t consider legalizing it. But much like we allow for taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, we can use this revenue from an activity that is wildly happening in our state for good. Secondly, by providing a regulatory structure we will have a better understanding of what exactly is happening with regards to sports wagering in our state instead of ignoring that it exists. We know that it happens and we want to make sure that we’re bringing it from the dark into the light.”
Two proposed amendments were voted down, one from Rep. Deb Butler to prohibit wagering with credit cards and one from Rep. John Autry to limit betting to professional sports.
Rep. John Bradford argued that credit cards are the dominant form of payment on an online platform and offer consumer protections.
“I understand that commerce is driven by credit,” Butler countered. “But we’re talking about an industry that has a horrible addictive quality.”
Her amendment lost 18-8.
College sports stay in the bill
Autry’s proposal to remove college sports succeeded on the House floor last year. And that was the turning point in causing the bill to fail by a single vote.
“I just think that allowing college sports to be gambled on and sanctioned by the state would just sully all of those programs,” Autry said.
Many lawmakers countered. Saine pointed out that the state wouldn’t come close to the $85 million in tax revenue projected in the executive budget without college sports.
Bradford said that college sports are different now that college athletes are making money from their name, image and likeness.
“At the end of the day, college sports have changed before our eyes,” Bradford said. “… College athletes are now able to make money under the NIL. And so therefore it is clear that college sports are a big business.”
Rep. John Bell added that North Carolina can’t stop wagering on college athletics. It’s already happening and the country and in illegal markets.
“If you look at what other states are doing around us and throughout the country, this would put us out of compliance if you removed all the college and amateur sports. Which doesn’t mean that betting would all stop on college and amateur sports. Just that everybody outside of the state of North Carolina would be able to do it and not the folks in North Carolina.”
Rep. Carla Cunningham didn’t want to remove college wagering and lose funding the bill provides for athletic departments at smaller North Carolina universities.
It was voted down 19-7. But Autry could still try again on the House floor.
North Carolina sports betting details
Key details of HB 347 include:
- North Carolina State Lottery Commission regulates sports betting.
- Allows between 10 and 12 interactive sports betting licenses.
- Guarantees interactive sports betting licenses to federally recognized North Carolina Indian tribes. These licenses don’t count toward the up-to-12 awarded by the Commission.
- Charges $1 million every five years for an interactive sports wagering license.
- Service providers pay $50,000 for a five-year license and suppliers pay $30,000.
- Sets the tax rate at 14%.
- Establishes sports betting lounges, or “permanent places of public accommodation,” at sports facilities. Sports betting lounges may be within one-half mile of a sports facility.
- Authorizes parimutuel wagering as a form of sports wagering.
North Carolina sports betting path easier than last year
Butler and Autry played key roles in derailing North Carolina sports betting last year. Butler’s arguments, which she repeated Tuesday, changed some votes on the House floor.
“Gambling is going to increase exponentially… The sky’s the limit when you’ve got these unrelenting ads and it’s constant. We know young people, impressionable people, are going to be particularly vulnerable… We are knowingly sanctioning additional abusive behavior, excessive behavior, uncontrollable behavior and heartbreaking behavior.”
But Saine has strengthened support for legalizing North Carolina sports betting. A massive 56 House members have signed on to the bill as sponsors or co-sponsors. And Saine said there are more who have expressed support.
Saine is trying to make sure there aren’t any last-second hiccups on the floor like last year.
“We have tried to carefully craft a bill that takes in and accounts for a lot of the opinions expressed last year and this year as we started the session,” Saine told the committee. “The sponsors of the bill ask if you do have concerns, bring them to us.”